PENSACOLA, Fla., - Pensacola Blue Wahoos catcher Adrian Nieto continued to come through on offense for his team.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, he smacked a hard liner to left field to score second baseman Alex Blandino, who had doubled with two outs, to give the Blue Wahoos a, 5-4, victory over the Birmingham Barons Thursday in front of 4,016 at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Pensacola leads the five-game series, 3-1, and clinched its first series after losing two in a row.
Nieto now has four RBIs in six at bats with two outs and runners in scoring position. Plus, the 27-year-old is batting .353 in his last six games with one home run, that he hit Tuesday, and two RBIs.
Nieto agreed with Pensacola manager Pat Kelly that his offense is improving with more regular at bats. Both he and Pensacola catcher Joe Hudson were limited in playing time as Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco did his rehabilitation with the Blue Wahoos for the first 20 games before returning to the big leagues.
Nieto, who played 48 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2014, also has been watching video from his 2013 season when he had his best year at the plate, hitting .285 for the High-A Potomac Nationals.
"It helps to get your at-bats and get into a rhythm," Nieto said. "I've made a few adjustments here and there watching old film from 2013. The Reds told me, 'Get back to where you were.' To have that freedom feels great."
Plus, he smiled and admitted he has some extra incentive at the plate, having played for Birmingham in 2015 and being selected for the All-Star game.
"That was a win that I really wanted," Nieto said. "Hopefully, we'll get our fourth one (Friday)."
Blue Wahoos right fielder Aristides Aquino earned his fourth hit in 38 at-bats by sending a high, deep fly ball over the left field wall that also brought in first baseman Eric Jagielo to put Pensacola on top, 4-1. Two of those four hits are homers.
It was Aquino's first homer in 21 at bats after knocking one out May 1 against Biloxi. His two-run blast came after having struck out five times in a row against Barons pitchers.
The lead held up until the seventh inning when Pensacola reliever Ismael Guillon gave up two runs on three hits to the Barons. DH Nick Basto, who hit a solo shot in the first inning, knocked in second baseman Eddy Alvarez with a single, pulling Birmingham within, 4-3. Barons third baseman Jake Peters scored the tying run, 4-4, when right fielder Mason Robbins lined a single to center.
The two runs scored on Guillon denied starter Keury Mella his first Double-A victory. He remains the only Pensacola starter without a win this season.
"It's a shame but the win will come (for Mella)," said Kelly.
Mella threw 5.2 innings, allowed two runs on six hits, walked two and struck out four. He is 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA.
Jimmy Herget relieved Guillon in the eighth with the game tied, 4-4, and got the last five outs, including striking out the side in the top of the ninth to pick up the win and even his record at 1-1. Herget has a 2.25 ERA.
Pensacola took the lead, 2-1, in the third inning when third baseman Josh VanMeter hit a two-out single to score DH Leon Landry from second base with the go-ahead run. VanMeter is hitting 8-18 with 10 RBIs in that situation. The first run scored in the inning when catcher Adrian Nieto crossed the plate from third on a sharp ground out to third by left fielder Tyler Goeddel.
Peter smashed a double into the left field corner that scored Alvarez from first to cut the Blue Wahoos lead in the fifth inning to, 4-2.
Pensacola upped its record to 18-16 and are in a tie with the Biloxi Shuckers for first place in the South Division.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos host the final game of the five-game series against the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons at 6:35 p.m. Friday, May 12. The Barons are starting RHP Thaddius Lowry (2-1, 6.06) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Deck McGuire (1-2, 4.01 ERA).
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices. Watch Friday's game on BLAB TV.
BIG FISH Catcher Adrian Nieto was 2-4, scored a run and drove in the game-winner…Left fielder Tyler Goeddel was 2-4 with a double and increased his batting average to .364…First baseman Eric Jagielo hit 2-4 with a double and run scored...Josh VanMeter continues to get clutch two-out hits, going 8-18, or .444, with 10 RBIs. He was 1-3 with an RBI.
Tickets to the 2017 Southern League All-Star Game are on sale now! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com or visiting the Box Office. Orders can also be placed over the phone by calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.